Wolf Theiss

MISUSE OF FACEBOOK PHOTOS: JUSTICE FOR SLOVAK STUDENT

WOLF THEISS succeeds in the representation of a 22 year old Slovak student, mistakenly labelled a prostitute in media reports. The law firm represented Ms R. on a pro bono basis.

Birgit Kraml, Counsel at Wolf Theiss, successfully represented the 22 year old Slovak student, Ms R., whose Facebook photo was mistakenly used by several Austrian daily newspapers and online media. The media were reporting on the murder of a different Slovak woman with exactly the same name whose body was found in Vienna in August 2010 and who, according to the media reports, worked as a prostitute. The newspapers published the photo of Wolf Theiss' client with captions labelling Ms R. a "call girl" and a "dead prostitute".

Wolf Theiss took on the case and filed claims against three Austrian daily newspapers based on defamation and infringement of the right to personal privacy. Ms R. was granted damages from all three daily newspapers, however only on grounds of defamation. Also the appellate court did not accept the claimed infringement of the right to personal privacy; reasoning that working as a prostitute is not part of one's personal life. The fact that Ms R. never actually worked in this milieu was considered irrelevant by the High Criminal Court.

No further appeal of the decision was possible for Ms R.. However, the Procurator General raised an appeal for nullity for observance of the law before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court found that prostitution can not be considered a job as any other but is part of one's personal life which is protected and which must, therefore, be respected also by the media.

Kraml commented the decision: "The case has attracted considerable interest in the Austrian media ever since it first became public and is a landmark decision towards ethical journalism. No-one can unwrite yesterday's news. However, the damages achieved for Ms R. and the decision of the Supreme Court are at least a certain compensation for our client."

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